NEW YORK (June 12, 2013) — Children living in armed conflict face unprecedented threats to their lives and wellbeing. Today UNICEF said that the recruitment and use of children in armed conflict, sexual violence against children, killing and maiming of children, and recurrent attacks on hospitals and schools must stop.
These grave violations are highlighted in the latest annual report of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict, issued today by Leila Zerrougui, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict.
The trend of schools being attacked and used for military purposes is particularly abhorrent. In conflict, schools must be protected as safe havens where children can learn and grow to their full potential, while regaining a sense of normalcy.
The report highlights incidents in several countries in which schools and education personnel have been attacked or schools used as military barracks, weapons storage facilities, command centers, detention and interrogation sites, and firing and observation positions. These actions put children’s lives at risk, hamper their right to an education and result in reduced enrolment and high drop-out rates, especially among girls.
In Syria, thousands of children have suffered through the shelling, missile firing and heavy aerial and artillery bombardment of their schools, hospitals and homes. The use of car and other bombs near schools, resulting in the death and injury to children, was reported. One hundred sixty-seven education personnel, including 69 teachers, were reported killed through February 2013, and 2,445 schools are reported to be damaged. In some areas, children have not been to school in over 18 months.
In Afghanistan, targeted attacks against schools were reported, including improvised explosive devices and suicide attacks, burned schools and the abduction and killing of education personnel. Acts of intimidation, threats against teachers and students, and the forced closure of schools were also reported. Ten cases of the use of schools for military purposes in Afghanistan are noted in the report.
The take-over of northern Mali by armed groups in 2012 had a devastating effect on children’s access to education. The report notes that 115 schools were looted, damaged, bombed, used for military purposes or contaminated with unexploded ordnance. As of February 2013, 86 percent of students remaining in the north still do not have access to education.
UNICEF uses the opportunity of the publication of the Secretary-General’s Report to reiterate that all parties to armed conflict must do everything to ensure the safety of children and the protection of their rights. The full report is available here: http://childrenandarmedconflict.un.org/
The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) works in 190 countries and territories to save and improve children’s lives, providing health care and immunizations, clean water and sanitation, nutrition, education, emergency relief and more. The U.S. Fund for UNICEF supports UNICEF's work through fundraising, advocacy and education in the United States. Together, we are working toward the day when ZERO children die from preventable causes and every child has a safe and healthy childhood. For more information, visit www.unicefusa.org.
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